NEW YORK – Chi Chi Rodriguez, the greatest golfer ever to come out of Puerto Rico, making it from the island all the way into the World Golf Hall of Fame, knows what it’s like to live with next to nothing. As a child, he watched his mother cook with hot rocks in a house with no electricity, and fetched water from a mile away, walking home balancing a can on his head that was filled to the brim.
Rodriguez owns a home in Dorado, near the northern coast, roughly 15 miles from San Juan, but he was not on the island when Hurricane Maria tore through it. He has a brother and sister there. He has seen the pictures. Hurricane Maria made landfall last week, her winds decimating homes and roads and greatly hampering communications from residents.
“Devastating,” he said Tuesday morning in New York, where tonight he will attend the World Golf Hall of Fame Induction ceremony for the Class of 2017 (Henry Longhurst, Ian Woosnam, Meg Mallon, Lorena Ochoa, Davis Love III).
How can people help out his ravaged country as it starts the long road to rebuild? Send generators, if possible, he said, because “the money sometimes disappears.” Rodriguez is saddened that Puerto Rico has not received the aid that it direly needs to this point.
“We’re good Americans,” said Rodriguez, who will be 82 next month, “and we deserve better than we’re getting. There’s nothing happening. I hope Mr. Trump understands that.”
U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he will visit Puerto Rico early next week. He said federal assistance will be provided. Tuesday morning, he tweeted, “Much food and water there/on way.”
Said Rodriguez, “We just need the blessings of the United States, and the people of the world. I hope that the governor can talk the Pope (Pope Francis) into going back there and doing some praying for the island.”
Rodriguez said he is not sure how his house fared with the hurricane’s high winds, as people have not yet been allowed near where he lives to check on things. His home sits nearly 80 feet above sea level, so he isn’t concerned with flooding.
“They’re not letting anybody enter my neighborhood,” Rodriguez said. “But if not (if the house is damaged), it’s OK. I’m alive, my wife is alive. We’re healthy. That’s what it’s all about.
“Man can endure things. It all depends on your upbringing. If you’re born poor, it’s a blessing, because you have to make it in life.”